David Archuleta, who began singing around age 7, comes from a family of musicians. His father is a trumpeter; his mother is a vocalist and salsa dancer.
The 17-year-old hadn't yet entered his teenage years when his vocal coach Dean Kaelin recognized his talent six years ago, the "very first time I heard him sing."
By the time Archuleta turned 12 he already had won the juniors singers' competition on the televised talent show "Star Search," but in the process, Archuleta lost half his voice when a virus attacked his vocal chord. It left one chord paralyzed.
"I said, 'OK turn your head and sing.' One vocal chord was doing all the work," Kaelin said.
The shy boy with the big voice had to deal with a medical problem that permanently changed his voice.
It took months of work and vocal training for Archuleta to heal, but Kaelin said the he never fully recovered. Ironically, the damaging illness gave the teen his unique textured sound, which has been much praised and lauded.
Kaelin said Archuleta, who was raised in the Mormon Church, chooses all of his songs on the popular singing show, which reveals facets of his personality.
"What you see is genuine. He's very honest. He's very unassuming. He's very humble," he said.
Friends said the Murray High School student, who cited Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder, Kirk Franklin and Bryan Adams as musical influences, is the same whether he is before 35 people or 35 million.
The seemingly gentle demeanor of the shy boy isn't the only thing attracting attention. Some critics have questioned whether his father, Jeff Archuleta, is pushing his son too hard to be a success.
But, Archuleta's friends said there's nothing unusual about the pair's relationship.
"Like any dad would be supportive and helping him telling him to practice and trying to get him do his best," said Archuleta's friend Jessica Judd.
"I really am really grateful for his friendship, not just his stardom that's gotten me on 'Good Morning America,'" Judd said.